• Operant conditioning extinction differs from
classical conditioning extinction
• Responds decreases to near zero for both
• Operant conditioning:
– Transient increase
– Extinction induced aggression
Partial Reinforcement
Extinction Effect: PREE
• Extinction occurs at different rates depending on the schedule:
– Continuous reinforcement: FAST extinction
– Partial reinforcement schedules: SLOWER extinction
– Variable schedules show slower extinction than fixed (rate or time)
• PREE used to describe greater persistence in instrumental
responding during extinction after partial (or intermittent)
reinforcement training
– Faster extinction after continuous reinforcement training.
• Partial reinforcement schedules show RESISTANCE TO EXTINCTION
Other Extinction Effects
• magnitude reinforcement extinction effect
– Less persistence of instrumental behavior in extinction
following training with a large reinforcer
– More persistance of responding with a small or moderate
– Effect is most prominent with continuous reinforcement.
• overtraining extinction effect
– Less persistence of instrumental behavior in extinction following
extensive training with reinforcement (overtraining)
– Faster extinction following moderate levels of reinforcement
– Again, effect most prominent with continuous reinforcement
Other Extinction Effects
• reinstatement
– Recovery of responding to an extinguished stimulus
– produced by exposures to unconditioned stimulus or
• renewal
– Recovery of excitatory responding to an extinguished
– produced by shift away from the contextual cues that
were present during extinction.
Behavioral Momentum
• Suggests that PREE occurs because the animal has a high momentum of
responding and it is more difficult to stop this momentum
• Timberlake and Lucas 1985:
Ball bearing studies
Rolled ball bearing across cage; rats had to let it go past to receive reinforcer
Played with the ball bearing, slowing reinforcement
During extinction (ball bearing but no food): played with ball bearings MORE
• Does suggest that animals show strong patterns of behavior that may
interfere and thus slow the extinction process
• But not a complete explanation
Discrimination and Frustration
• Discrimination hypothesis:
– Mowrer and Jones 1945
– In order for subjects’ behavior to change during extinction, the
subject must be able to discriminate the change in
reinforcement contingencies
• With CRF: This is immediately noticeable
• With PRF: not immediately noticeable
– More discriminative on fixed schedules
– Less discriminative on variable schedules
• Evidence does not completely support this
Generalization Decrement Hypothesis
• Capaldi, 1966
• Generalization decrement: decreased responding observed
in generalization test when test stimuli become less and
less similar to training stimulus
• Responding during extinction is weak if the stimuli present
during extinction are different from those during the
reinforcement phase
• Responding during extinction is STRONG if the stimuli
present during extinction are very similar to those during
reinforcement phase.
Generalization Decrement Hypothesis
• Large generalization decrement when schedule moves
from CRF to EXT
– Subject never experienced situation in which some of its
responses are not reinforced
– Not been taught to keep responding in absence of a
• Small generalization decrement when schedule moves
from PRF to EXT
– Subject has experience in situation where some of its
responses are not reinforced
– HAS been taught to keep responding in absence of a
Sequential Theory
• sequential theory: memory of reward vs. non reward
– Cognitive theory
• Fast extinction after CRF
– Extinction occurs quickly because the instrumental
response has NOT been conditioned to the memory of
• Slow extinction during PREE
– extinction is slowed after partial reinforcement because
the instrumental response becomes conditioned to the
memory of nonreward.
Avoidance Tests
Negative reinforcement = removing a stimulus to INCREASE a behavior
Negative reinforcement =
– escape: a response removes something
– avoidance: a response prevents some event
Procedure for studying negative reinforcement and avoidance: Discriminated
– a response CANCELS a shock
– Organism is responding for food reinforcers
– When light comes on, must press another lever to AVOID the shock
if the response does not occur during the S+ the stimulus is followed by a shock
if the response does occur during the S+, the shock is cancelled
thus: signal or sD for shock
if this were an escape: response could also occur DURING the shock to shut off shock
Two Avoidance Procedures:
• Sidman Avoidance:
the response POSTPONES or DELAYS the shock
thus: only temporary solution
must keep responding to keep delaying the shock
results in lots of responding
again: some signal may be used to signal when must respond
• Herrnstein and Hineline Procedure:
the response reduces the rate of the shock
note: note delay or cancel, just slows down rate of delivery
the response switches the schedule of shock to a lower rate
Note: cannot entirely AVOID shock in this procedure:
• once animal receives shock on lowered schedule, reverts back to original
• animal must respond again to switch schedule again
Characteristics of Avoidance Behavior
• extremely variable:
– from subject to subject
– from session to session with SAME subject
– procedure to procedure
• choice of response is important
– determines how quickly will learn contingency
– how well learning is maintained
• 1-way vs 2-way shuttle avoidance tests:
– 1-way shuttle: run to other end w/sD
– 2-way shuttle: run to opposite end w/sD
– rat will learn to run to other end of shuttle box when sD comes on to avoid
difficult time learning 2-way shuttle avoidance
Characteristics of Avoidance Behavior
• Species specific Defense reactions:
– behaviors which animal does naturally in time of
– includes: freezing, fleeing, fighting
• Why?
– animal has innate behaviors does when avoiding
noxious stimulus– can't make it go against its nature
Characteristics of Avoidance Behavior
• Negatively reinforced behavior is difficult to
– escape behaviors take long time to go away
– e.g.: rat in 1-way shuttle still runs when light
comes on-even after hundreds of EXT trials
• BUT: will extinguish quickly if animal can
detect change from conditioning to EXT
Negative Reinforcement in Humans
• most often "reinforcement" technique used in
real world
• often used because is cheaper, easier, more
• produces "bad" side effects: avoidance
responses to sD = boss, principal, spouse, etc.
Theories of Avoidance: Two Factor
Two things happen during avoidance conditioning:
– animal learns to fear S+ via class. cond'ing
CS (light)---> US (shock): UR (fear)
animal learns to fear light via pairing with shock
– animal will then learn a response to AVOID shock and thus remove/lessen their fear
thus: not getting shocked reduces fear that was signaled by the CS
experimental evidence:
– on initial training trials:
– light/CS produces physiological symptoms of fear
– escape response results in decrease in these physiological symptoms
on later trials:
– little or no evidence of physiological fear with CS presentation
– suggests fear has been reduced/replaced by the escape response
in sense: forms a negative feedback loop
Two Factor theory in Humans
• many ineffective and/or irrational fears
– often involve avoidance responses due to original fear
– maintained by decrease in fear
– e.g., banging two sticks to keep the tigers away
• Symptoms of obsessive/compulsive disorders:
– compulsions = repeated, stereotyped, ritualized actions
• individual feels compelled to engage in them
– obsessions = compulsive thoughts (no actual actions)
– many, many examples of this
– can begin to interfere in life
Problems with 2-factor theory:
• Signs of fear dissipate w/time:
– as animal gets "better" at avoidance response
– thus: no fear to be avoided
• the CS is not as important in avoidance learning
as 2-factor theory states:
• animals can learn to avoid in a discriminated
avoidance situation long before there is any sign
that they are responding to/detecting the CS
Herrnstein and Hineline:
Test of 2-factor theory
Herrnstein and Hineline procedure:
– not use any CS, but the animal still learns to lessen/avoid the shock
• Test of the theory:
– two groups of rats used
– Group 1: can turn off light, but still shock
– Group 2: can turn off shock, light still on
2-factor theory would predict that Group 1 should respond more,
because this would be cancelling the CS that produces fear
• results: group 2 responds much more accurately, faster
Alternative: One-Factor Theory
• responses occur whenever they reduce the rate
at which aversive events occur
• when a CS is present: only providing information
about the effectiveness of a response
• fear may be a by-product of avoidance training,
but not crucial to learning/ maintaining an
avoidance response
Evidence for One-Factor theory
• Almost postulating a "cognitive" theory of avoidance:
• Seligman and Jonston (1973) did postulate cognitive
– like Rescorla Wagner theory in that deals with predictability
• Basic premise:
– learning occurs only when discrepancy between observation
and expectation
– subjects' behavior will change in avoidance task whenever
there is a discrepancy between expectancy and observation
Evidence for One-Factor theory
• Two important expectations in avoidance task:
– expectation about consequences of a response
– .expectation about consequences of not responding
• Data support One-factor theory
– on trial 1: no expectations
– On trial 2 (and more): expectation about what will happen
• no shock will occur if response is made
– shock will occur if no response is made
– animal prefers no shock to shock- so responds
• Contingency is what is important in avoidance, fear is by-product!
Flooding as an aversive:
• To extinguish an inappropriate response: must make
contact with "changed reinforcement or punishment"
• sometimes used as alternative to systematic desensitization
• flood with presentation of fear-provoking stimulus
– Again, no actual consequence occurs
– Continue presentations until the response is extinguished
• Problem: may "scare the patient to death"
Punishment can lead to Aggression
• Reflexive aggression:
– When punished, act out aggressively
– Is called reflexive because appears to be innate
– When in pain, you bite!
• Operant Aggression
– Learn to be aggressive contingently
– retaliatory
Punishment can lead to Aggression
• Aggression may model aggression
– That is, aggression breeds aggression
– Use of aggression as punishment may provide model of
how to “solve problems”
• Social Disruption
– The person who delivers the punishment/situation in
which punishment occurs become tainted
– Poisoning cues
– Also called social disruption:
• Behavior is disrupted in presence of cues that predict punishment
• May get freezing, reduced effort, etc., in presence of punisher
Evidence, con’t.
• as long as animal continues to respond- no shock
– not know when extinction occurs- no sampling
– only stop when learn situation has changed
• Thus: to EXT responding:
Must use response blocking or flooding:
present sD, but prevent R from occurring
thus animal learns that shock no longer comes
animal stops responding in presence of sD
Learned helplessness
Marty Seligman
• Four groups of dogs
Training I and II
I Escapable/escapeable
II Inescapable/inescapable
III Escapable/inescapable
III Inescapable/escapable
result Lasting effects
not run
not run
not run
Remember, Seligman’s hypothesis was that NONE of the
dogs would be significantly harmed.
Key Factor = inescapability
once learned not to escape (learned to be
helpless)= not change
Characteristics of L.H.
• inescapability that produces phenomenon,
not the shock itself
• works under variety of procedures,
• very generalizeable, transferable
• if take far enough, can make it a
contingency rule for the animal, rather
than specific contingency for specific
Symptoms of L.H.
learned laziness
retardation of learning
somatic effects
reduction of helplessness with time
Clinical expressions of
learned helplessness
• School phobias
and math anxiety
• Abusive
• Depression
• Cultural learned
“Curing” or eliminating learned
• Unlearn the rule
• Reshape or recondition
• Must be done in situation where
organism cannot fail
• Difficult to do- animals can “not”
• UPenn program on relearning thoughts
during test taking
• Only when shock contingent on behavior do
animals develop LH
– Animals in no control/no control condition do not
• Showed generalization very quickly
– In situations where there WAS a contingency, the
lack of behavior sabotaged results
How is this an example of the
importance of contingency?
• Got themselves into contingency trap
• If they don’t work, no reward, only punishment
• This reinforced contingency rule that THEY were the
cause of the bad consequences
• Self sabotage
• And it was true!
• Thus: treatment must be to learn better
contingencies and eliminate the bad (and in
their head) contingency rule
Why is this important for humans?
• Helps explain the “misbehavior” of humans
with some disorders
• Drug addicts and those with schizophrenia
make “poor” choices
– May be due to physiology of the
addiction or disease
– “bad choices” may be due to effect of
– Real changes may be occurring in the
brain which prevent the addict from
being sensitive to changes in his or her
life rewards
• May also explain some of the perseverative
and off-task behaviors observed in these
What “causes” LH?
• Newer research: original theory of learned
helplessness NOT account for people's varying
reactions to situations that can cause learned
• Learned helplessness sometimes remains specific to
one situation
• At other times generalizes across situations
• At first, difficult to predict which will occur in a given
Attributional Style
• attributional style/explanatory style:
– key to understanding why people respond differently to
adverse events
– Refers to how individuals attribute cause to an outcome
• group of people all experience same or similar negative
– BUT: each person person privately interprets cause of event
– HOW one attributes causes to event will appears determine
likelihood of LH
Pessimistic explanatory style
• sees negative events as
– permanent : "it will never change“
– Personal: “it's all my fault“
– pervasive: "I can't do anything correctly“
• These individuals most likely to suffer from
learned helplessness and depression
Optimistic explanatory style
• sees negative events as
– Out of the ordinary: “tomorrow is a new day! “
– Impersonal: “it's NOT really my fault“
– Temporary: "I can do most things correctly“
• These individuals least likely to suffer from
learned helplessness and depression
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
• Endorsed by Seligman,
• Teaches people more realistic explanatory
• Shown to help ease depression.
• Steven C. Hayes (U of Utah): recommends
acceptance and commitment therapy to get
rid of negative thoughts.
Attribution Theory
• Bernard Weiner (1979, 1985, 1986)
• Examines how people attribute a cause or
explanation to an unpleasant event.
• Includes the dimensions of
– globality/specificity:
– stability/instability
– internality/externality
Global vs. specific Attributions
• Specific attribution: individual believes cause
of a negative event is unique to a particular
• Global Attribution: individual believes the
cause of a negative event occurs across
Stable vs. Unstable
• Stable attribution: individual believes the
cause to be consistent across time.
• Unstable attribution: individual thinks that the
cause is specific to one point in time.
External vs. Internal
• External attribution: assigns causality to
situational or external factors
• Internal attribution: assigns causality to
factors within the person
How develop positive thinking styles?
• Innoculation programs
• Teach to deal with failure!
– Must experience failure to learn to frame it appropriately
• Who is more likely to get depressed?
• Straight A valedictorian receiving first C
• B average student receiving first C
• Why?
• You aren’t learning if you don’t make “mistakes”
– Mistakes are exploring the boundaries of a contingency!
• We are animals and we behave in ways that are consistent with
other species.
• There are biological boundaries or constraints in how we learn
and react to our environment
• Our biggest Human instinct: to learn, predict and control our
• HOW we attribute causes influences the development of rules or
heuristics for causation
• Animal models allow us to investigate these boundaries and help
explain human learning and choice behavior!

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